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PDP, APC supporters Exchange Blows In Rivers

The supporters of the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday clashed at the Independent National Electoral Commission office in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Though they exchanged blows, the quick intervention of the operatives of the Rivers State Police Command averted what could have been a deadly row.

Over 2,000 supporters from both parties had surprisingly converged at the office of the INEC along the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway, protesting an alleged bias by the commission.

While the PDP supporters accused the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Gecilla Khan, of planning to rig the forthcoming general elections in favour of the APC, those of the APC were also alleging that Khan was doing the bidding of the PDP.

Armed policemen, who were earlier on ground, had a hectic day, trying to avoid the exchange of blows by supporters of both parties, as some security operatives took position at strategic points to ward off any incursion from the protesters into INEC’s office.

The APC supporters had converged on the Legislative Quarters, close to the INEC office as early as 7am in preparation for the protest against the commission. However, they met PDP supporters at the electoral umpire’s front gate, who were there for a similar purpose.

Not comfortable with the presence of the APC supporters, who were chanting ‘Change’, the PDP supporters chased away their perceived enemies and destroyed some of their placards.

A journalist with Top News newspaper simply identified as Ibrahim, who was injured on the leg as he tried to dodge a stone thrown by one of the angry protesters, was taken to the hospital by some of his colleagues.

Some of the placards displayed earlier by the APC supporters read, ‘Rivers REC, are you a member of the PDP?’, ‘We need unbiased umpire in Rivers’, ‘Rivers people will resist any attempt to manipulate the electoral process’, ‘INEC, your secret agenda with PDP has been exposed’, and ‘We want a free and fair election in Rivers’.

However, some of the inscriptions on the PDP supporters’ placards read, ‘INEC, you are working for the APC’, ‘INEC, we need a free and fair election’, ‘We will not accept fake results’, and ‘INEC, you are partial’.

One of the PDP protesters said the party’s supporters would never be intimidated by their APC counterparts. He queried why the APC would decide to stage a protest on the same day and time with the PDP?

“We have chased them away. Some of them (APC supporters) ran into the bush. We took their placards away from them. Why would they venture into the place we are protesting?” he asked.

Speaking on the matter, the State PDP Publicity Secretary, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, told newsmen at the venue of the protest that INEC was recruiting card-carrying members of the APC as their ad hoc staff, adding that such a development would not create the atmosphere for the conduct of a free and fair election.

Nwanosike, who later met with the state REC, also faulted INEC’s insistence on the use of card readers during the March 28 and April 11, 2015 elections, maintaining that the test-run by the commission had shown that the item would not assist the commission to conduct a hitch-free poll.

He specifically stated that one of the aides to Governor Rotimi Amaechi, Chief Tony Okocha, had two brothers; Godfrey and Gibson, who were working as Assistant Electoral Officers with INEC in the state. He said the development will not pave the way for the conduct of a free and fair election in the state.

He said, “From the record and INEC’s position, the number of PVCs distributed in the North East, where Boko Haram had been on rampage, is on the high side. If many people have been displaced in the region, who then did INEC give the PVCs to?

“Again, you can see through the utterances of the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed, that he (Mohammed) has become the spokesman of INEC. The card reader has been faulted going by INEC’s test-run the other day, yet they (INEC) want to go ahead with it.”

On the skirmish between his party supporters and the APC supporters, Nwanosike maintained that it was the APC that attacked the PDP members, who were on a peaceful rally.

Also, the State APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Finebone, explained that they (the APC) decided to protest, having noticed that the commission’s system has been ‘strategically compromised.’

“But surprisingly, the PDP in their usual thirst for violence got wind of our protest and appeared at the same venue. We are calling on security operatives to always be proactive and intervene by arresting the PDP supporters, who only came to scuttle our peaceful protest.

“You can see that no member of the PDP was arrested as they disrupted our protest at the INEC office. It has been the same situation, even when the APC members are being attacked by the PDP. You saw how they took away the placards displayed by our supporters,” Finebone lamented.

In her reaction to allegations by the PDP and the APC supporters, the INEC REC said it was obvious that she had been neutral in carrying out her functions.

On the issue that one of the governor’s aides has two brothers working with INEC, Khan explained that the development had nothing to do with the commission’s determination to conduct a free and fair election.

“The PDP and the APC have been complaining. I am happy that since the APC and the PDP are accusing me of being partial, that means that I am neutral. I thank God that the police were on ground when the protest began, you people would have clashed,” she added.

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